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Laura Crema uses Almost Blue to revive great standards in very refreshing form, turning back generations of time to pay the highest form of respect to her predecessors. Although Crema included two tracks recorded live, one wonders how different this collection would feel to the listener had the band just recorded this whole album as a live set. This album is a nightclub gig without the smoke.
Laura Crema learned well under the guidance of legendary jazz vocalists Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton at Banff, Alberta (Canada). She knows when to hold the note like a longing memory and when to let it go like a painful betrayal. Crema is a true artist, having distinguished herself in music, dance and choreography across Canada. A wider understanding of arts has helped Crema with this part of her musical art. We can feel it in the music.
“There’s a part of me that’s always true.”
”I Remember You” provides the only jarring energy surge of this record. Its up tempo features a club-tight solo by pianist Miles Black that is offset by his lovely placement of chords. The difficulty with this situation has always been that of deciding where to place one up-tempo tune in a collection of ballads. Perhaps Crema should have chosen a different song for this spot in the line-up.
“Young and Foolish” draws back to the blues in a rendition that would please Jimmy Van Heusen. Pianist David Restivo is comfortable in the slower groove and he solos with the lazy brilliance of a Sunday afternoon thought. Crema croons in a truth too seldom told these days: “I wish that we were young and foolish again.”
This incarnation of “Stormy Weather” is performed over 25 years after Harold Arlen, one of the song’s authors, left us. Kenny Werner makes a great cameo of flourishing piano that combines to beat slightly with William Gallison’s harmonica wanderings.
“Just can’t get my poor self together. I’m weary all the time.”
Kodi Hutchinson’s bass turns “All of You” into a funky reinvention of Cole Porter’s classic. Crema packages her vocal in the classicism that underlies this music and that brings honesty to this recording.
“From This Moment On” sizzles very much in the spirit of Cole Porter. Laura Crema can cook and tease, but this song provided her the opportunity to extend into straight jazz voice (without words). Pianist Randy Halberstat impresses with selection and skill in his only appearance on this record.
“It’s only human for anyone to want to be in love. But who wants to be in love in vain?”
“The Meaning of the Blues” extends the overwhelming blues feel of this record to almost six minutes – the longest song of this collection. The lyrics may expound on the colour blue, but the music defines what blue feels like.
Almost Blue is not almost blue; it is blues in its most jazzy, traditional form. May Laura Crema hold on to the integrity of the traditions she explored in this, her third, album.
Track Listing: Almost Blue; I Remember You; Young and Foolish; Like Someone In Love; Stormy Weather; All of
You; Comes Love; From This Moment On; In Love In Vain; The Meaning of the Blues.
Personnel: Laura Crema (vocals); David Restivo (piano, tracks 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 10); Miles Black (piano, tracks 2
and 9); Kenny Werner (piano, track 5); Randy Halbertstat (piano, track 8); Kodi Hutchinson (bass,
tracks 1, 3, 4, 6 and 10); Paul Rushka (bass, tracks 2 and 9); Mike Lent (bass, tracks 7 and 8); Owen
Howard (drums, tracks 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10); Craig Scott (drums, tracks 2 and 9); William Gallison
(harmonica, tracks 4, 5 and 10).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.